Sunday, January 10, 2016

FIAF's CinéSalon presents LHOMME BEHIND THE CAMERA -- featuring the work of pioneering cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme

The French Institute/Alliance Francaise's (FIAF's) popular and increasingly indispensable Tuesday CinéSalon is on a roll. After its November/December series on Mathieu Amalric, here comes a new seven-week/eight-film series devoted to that fine French cinematographer whose work ought to be better known on this side of the Atlantic, Pierre Lhomme. Lhomme Behind the Camera is the clever title of the two-month run of films of this pioneering cinematographer who worked with some of the most special French (and international) filmmakers, from Jean-Pierre Melville to Chris MarkerJames Ivory to Dusan Makavejev, Bertrand Blier to Claude Berri and Jean-Paul Rappenau.

What TrustMovies finds most impressive about Lhomme's work is his versatility: how he could become completely comfortable and creative in any kind of movie -- documentary or narrative, black-and-white or color -- and in just about any genre you can name. And throughout, his work remained beautiful, varied, and, well, just what the doctor -- whoops, filmmaker -- ordered. As the FIAF press release reminds us, Lhomme’s films are marked by a mastery of low light, and a gift for psychological realism in any genre.

A selection of Lhomme’s work -- many of the films newly restored -- will be presented from January 12 – February 23 at CinéSalon in Florence Gould Hall on East 59th Street in Manhattan every Tuesday at 4 and 7:30 PM. The complete eight-film schedule is below, with FIAF's description appearing in the first paragraph and TrustMovies "take" on each movie in the second.  As an added bonus, each 7:30pm screening will be introduced by a guest speaker, and after the movie, wine will be served and a lively discussion had in the lovely FIAF Gallery. All in all, CinéSalon is just about the perfect venue in which to see and then discuss the movie post-viewing.


 Lhomme Behind the Camera 
Tuesday afternoons and evening
from January 12 through February 23

Le Sauvage
Tuesday, January 12 at 4 & 7:30pm 
DCP. Restored. Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. 1975. Color. 107 min. 
With Yves Montand, Catherine Deneuve, Luigi Vannucchi, Tony Roberts 
In French with English subtitles 
 A young bride (Catherine Deneuve) escapes her impending nuptials with a priceless painting hidden in her luggage. Pursued across Venezuela by her jilted lover, she maroons herself on an island with a sullen but handsome stranger (Yves Montand) who is also on the run from his past. Pierre Lhomme captures the emotional depth of tropical landscapes in this adventuresome rom-com. "Frantic and exotic"—L’Express

This little nearly-screwball comedy holds up rather delightfully, as Deneuve and Montand meet cute and stay that way for nearly all of the 107 minutes. The chemistry between the two is quite wonderful (watching this film, the younger generation might discover why Americans took so firmly to sexy European men back in the 60s and 70s, as well as why Ms Deneuve has remained such a film icon for so many decades). What fun to see Tony Roberts in a French movie, and to re-discover one of the great screen beauties, Dana Wynter. The ending's a bit of a letdown, but up to that point, there's beaucoup fun to be had.

 Free wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced.

The Army of Shadows (L’Armée des ombres)
Tuesday, January 19 at 4pm DCP. Restored. 
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969. Color. 145 min. 
With Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Paul Meurisse, Simone Signoret 
In French, German, and English with English subtitles. 
Equal parts beautiful and brutal, this psychological drama follows the clandestine movements of a cell of determined Resistance fighters who risk everything for a seemingly hopeless cause. Cold, spare, and visually arresting cinematography captures the pervasive atmosphere of fear and mistrust in France during World War II. Based on the novel by Joseph Kessel and director Jean-Pierre Melville’s own experiences as a young man, this wartime masterpiece won a New York Film Critics Circle’s award upon its US release in 2006, 37 years after its creation. “Thrilling…a masterpiece."— The New York Times

A film that TM found not quite up to its illustrious reputation, still, any Melville is worth the watch (and then some) and the cast here is top grade, too. I do recall being greatly impressed with Lhomme's cinematography (this is one of those films that, though the movie's in color, so drained is it of any cheer or brightness, that you may remember it being in black-and-white). It is also drained of any melodrama and thrills, so that from time to time it does seem rather one-note. Overall, through the subject matter and atmosphere (via Melville and Lhomme), the film proves persuasive.

Free wine & beer following each screening.

The Mother and the Whore (La maman et la putain)
Tuesday, January 19 at 7:30pm 35mm 
Directed by Jean Eustache, 1973. B&W. 220 min. 
With Bernadette Lafont, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Françoise Lebrun 
In French with English subtitles
Jean Eustache’s intimate portrait of youth after May 1968 is one of the most influential films in the history of French cinema. In this wayward epic, Lhomme’s long shots mirror Alexandre’s (Jean-Pierre Léaud) meandering days spent in cafés, unable to choose between the bourgeois girlfriend (Bernadette Lafont) who supports him and the promiscuous mistress (Françoise Lebrun) who falls for him in spite of her better judgment. Don’t miss a rare chance to see this unforgettable classic, not available online or on DVD. “Emotionally shattering, historically earthshaking” – The New Yorker

More a film one can appreciate rather than love, this three-hour-and-forty-minute "masterpiece" is full of the fraught and arty but is also genuinely strange and moving from time to time. TrustMovies hasn't seen it in probably well over 15 years, so maybe he's grown a bit in that time and might be able to better appreciate it now. If he were still living in NYC, he might just show up at FIAF and take another gander at these alternately grim and goofy goings-on. He does remember muttering, "Enough already!" at several points along the way, and yet he stayed through the entire film, politely accepting his badge-of-endurance as he departed.

Free wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced.

The Flesh of the Orchid (La Chair de l’orchidée)
Tuesday, January 26 at 4 & 7:30pm 35mm. Restored. 
Directed by Patrice Chéreau, 1975. Color. 110 min. 
With Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Edwige Feuillère, Simone Signoret 
In French with English subtitles. 

Stage director Patrice Chéreau’s first film follows a fugitive heiress (Charlotte Rampling) on the run from her wicked aunt and a pair of murderous gangsters. In this foreboding, rain-soaked thriller, it seems just about everyone is after her fortune. “Murky psychological thriller”– The Guardian

Reeking with 1970s artsy-fartsy sex and violence, this has got to be the silliest but also perhaps the most fun film in the series. Not to mention the chance to see the gorgeous young Charlotte Rampling (above) -- currently making cultural headlines via 45 Years and her mini-retrospective at the IFC Center in NYC -- and Simone Signoret (in second photo from top) in a juicy supporting role! By the bloody, bizarre end of this mystery/thriller/chase movie involving the past, the circus, an old movie palace, a falling-into-ruins estate, and a railway station filled only with women, you may suspect that what you've seen is some kind of odd fairy tale about the wonders of unfeeling capitalism. Yeah, it's that weird. And not to be missed for Rampling completists.

Wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced.

Tuesday, February 2 at 4 & 7:30pm 35mm 
Directed by James Ivory, 1987. Color. 140 min. 
With James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott 
In English 
Adapted from E.M. Forster’s posthumously published tale of forbidden love, this stunning period piece follows a love triangle between Cambridge students Maurice (James Wilby), Clive (Hugh Grant), and Clive’s gameskeeper Scudder (Rupert Graves) as they navigate their sexuality in stifling, pre-WWI England. “Sprawling and spectacular”— The Washington Post

James Ivory may not be known as a ground-breaking director, but his film of Forster's novel certainly was. Deeply felt and full of passion, shame and beauty (of body and landscape), how the filmmaker brings to light and life this tale of homosexual love taking place a full century ago produces one of Ivory's (and Lhomme's) richest works. The cinematography here is as deep, dark (and often subtle) as the passions and events unleashed.

Free wine & beer following each screening. 7:30 screening followed by a special Q&A with director James Ivory -- and the cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme in person!

Le Combat dans l’île
Tuesday, February 9 at 4 & 7:30pm 35mm 
Directed by Alain Cavalier, 1962. B&W. 104 min. 
With Romy Schneider, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Henri Serre, Diane Lepvrier 
In French with English subtitles

A love triangle—between an angry young fascist, his battered wife, and the friend who takes them in—is ground for an exploration of the political tensions in France in the early 1960s in this elegant thriller. Lhomme’s beautifully framed shots are the foundation for director Alain Cavalier’s first film. “Silvery and smoky cinematography”– The New York Times

Such a surprising movie -- and way ahead of its time in terms of its themes and its refusal to over-explain --  The Battle on the Island (I think that would be the English translation) is a film that sticks with you in odd ways, seeming to grow better over time. Just to see the young Romy Schneider and Jean-Louis Trintignant (above) should be enough to attract the senior set, but the story itself seems even more timely now than when TM first saw the film a decade or two ago.

Free wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced.

Le Joli Mai 
Tuesday, February 16 at 4 & 8pm DCP. Restored. 
Directed by Chris Marker & Pierre Lhomme, 1963. B&W. 165 min. 
In French with English subtitles 
Students, stockbrokers, poets, and construction workers discuss their lives during a moment of peace between war and cultural revolution. Told in impromptu interviews shot on the streets of Paris, this legendary collaboration between Lhomme and Chris Marker captures the attitude of the city in May 1962. Pierre Lhomme is credited as co-director on this groundbreaking documentary, one of the first of its kind to use emerging technology to capture daily life. “One of the key works of French cinema vérité” – Criterion

A must for Marker fans and a fine place to begin if you've never seen a Chris Marker movie. The documentary is long, sure, but it is non-stop lively, too. It gives cinema vérité its good name, as Marker and Lhomme show us people and a city in ways we had never before seen (and seldom have afterward -- at least not like they are captured here).

Free wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced. 

Cyrano de Bergerac
Tuesday, February 23 at 4 & 7:30pm 
Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990. Color. 137 min. 
With Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet, Vincent Pérez 
In French with English subtitles. 
The tragic tale of a selfless romantic with a larger-than-life personality—and a longer than average nose—is perfectly told in this adaptation set in the royal court. This lavish and beloved period piece won a record-breaking 10 César awards, including best cinematography and best actor for a virtuoso performance by Gérard Depardieu. “A physically elaborate period spectacle"— The New York Times

This may not be a great Cyrano, but it is a very, very good one, with Depardieu in fine fettle, and Lhomme showing us what both gorgeous spectacle and delicate intimacy ought to look like. Cyrano de Bergerac is a difficult piece to wreck, and when it is done well, as here, its beauty and timelessness simply shine.

Free wine & beer following each screening. Special guest speaker to be announced.

About FIAF
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s premiere French cultural and language center. FIAF's mission is to create and offer New Yorkers innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression.

Merci! Special thanks to Renée and Pierre Lhomme, James Ivory, Charles Cohen, Tim Langa (Cohen Media Group) Melissa Chung, Eric Le Roy & Jean-Baptiste Garnero (CNC), Daniel Bish (Georges Eastman Museum Archives), Anne-Catherine Louvet (Institut Français), LiviaBloom (Icarus Films), Philippe Leconte (Pyramide), Amélie Rayroles (Tamasa Distribution), Jacob Perlin (The Film Desk), and Eric di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures)

CinéSalon is made possible by the NY State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NY State Legislature, the Institut français, & the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.   CinéSalon is sponsored by Air France and Delta Air Lines, BNP Paribas, Nespresso, and Renault Nissan. The wine comes courtesy of Xavier Wine Company, the exclusive wine sponsor of CinéSalon, and the beer is provided courtesy of Kronenbourg 1664, the exclusive beer sponsor of CinéSalon. FIAF Winter 2016 Season Sponsors: Air France and Delta Air Lines, the official airlines of FIAF; Altour; BNP Paribas; Cultural Services of the French Embassy; The American Society of French Legion of Honor; Office Tourisme de Boulogne-Billancourt; Enoch Foundation; Florence Gould Foundation; FACE (French American Cultural Exchange); Institut français; New York State Council on the Arts; and New York State Regional Economic Development Council.

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